We appreciate the feedback from readers. One query asks, “How do you deal with the feelings of being a ghost when you’re a divorced dad? It seems like those feelings are even more pronounced when you’re a single dad. Where can you go to get help or answers while you sit on the sidelines because your son or daughter lives with mom?”
Being invisible in a divorced relationship takes on a new dimension. When Bill picked his younger son up from third grade one day, he seemed unusually quiet. After some silence in the car, the youngster finally told about a classmate who had raised his hand and announced that his parents were getting a divorce. Soon, six or seven other students raised their hands and shared a similar story. Each was bothered and had thought he or she surely was the only one in that situation.
Families Can Break Apart
Discussion in class quickly changed from the subject at hand to the feelings of the children in these separated homes. This was startling news to Bill’s son. It hadn’t occurred to him that parents could separate, that families could break apart. He took it for granted that his friends’ parents, as well as his own, would always be together.
But divorce is a prevalent part of life. Most estimates place the divorce rate in America between 40 and 50 percent. Most of us can quickly identify a family member or friend who is divorced.
So how do you deal with the feelings of being sidelined when you’re not with your child?
A Few Keys for Dad
If being on the sidelines means you’re not around your teenager, try to maintain contact through e-mail, letter, phone or social media. Try to establish some kind of presence in his or her life (making sure you are following stipulations of the divorce). Certainly the emotions and the desire to connect on both sides depend on the specific circumstances of the marriage break-up.
If emotional wounds need to heal, allow ample time. Perhaps you can make an appearance later.
If you are relegated to the sidelines due to divorce or separation, you might start the healing process by assuring your teenager that:
- It’s not his or her fault. (Mom needs to help with this, too.) Your local library or bookstore will have helpful resources on this issue.
- It’s not your child’s role to be involved in the disappointment, hurt or anger of the separation. Keep the adult problems confined to the adults.
- It’s not your job to make up for the loss. Don’t schedule too many activities. Keep together times simple, allowing room for discussion.
It is your job to be there for your child if permitted in the divorce decree. Your presence is important, even if it’s not continuous and even if it sometimes seems your child isn’t interested. Your son or daughter’s reactions will vary and occasionally they will be hard to understand. You need to reassure your child that your love is constant. In most situations, your presence is the most important thing you can provide. It just may not always seem so.